Best maintenance practices can make nearly any operation’s lift trucks more productive by reducing unscheduled downtime. Your service company should have skilled technicians with years of experience servicing all makes of lift trucks. By committing to a maintenance schedule recommended by a professional service company, you can ensure that your fleet is in top shape with maximum up time.
Comprehensive Record Keeping
Controlling the quality of service is very important. In order to ensure that your fleet’s maintenance needs are being fulfilled, make sure your service company has a procedure checklist that is completed by the technician for every lift truck in your fleet. This checklist will then become a permanent record of your lift truck fleet’s maintenance and condition,and will provide vital historical data on not only the individual lift truck, but also the entire fleet. By using the data from your records, you may be able to isolate recurring problems and correct or avoid them, further increasing your fleet’s productivity and efficiency.
Breaking with Tradition, Flexibility is the Key
Any periodic maintenance plan should be based on each lift truck’s application, make, model and operating environment. One item that should be included is a periodic maintenance program, which should include different services and checks based on the number of hours of service throughout the year. An example plan would include every 250 hours or six weeks for ICE units or 350 hours or two months for electric units:
• System lubrication and general inspection
• Operational evaluation
• Engine oil and filter change
• Wheels and tires—check for damage
• Hydraulic lines—check for wear or leakage
Additional items performed every 1,000hours or six months of operation:
• Complete tune-up
• Fuel filter change Additional items performed every 2,000 hours or one year of operation:
• Antifreeze coolant change
• Transmission fluid and filter change
• Hydraulic oil and filter change
• Clean and repack wheel bearings
• Brake system inspection
Specific Maintenance and Inspection
During regularly scheduled maintenance checks, there is an exhaustive list of things to inspect. Each component should be thoroughly examined. For example, ignoring the condition of the forks on your lift trucks can cost you time and money. If you’re not inspecting your forks at least every 12 months, you are not in compliance with ASME/ANSI B56.1-2000. This could result in unsafe operation of a lift truck that results in lost loads or serious personal injury to your employees.
Lift truck forks are often mistreated and forgotten. Forks last a long time if treated properly. Here are a few examples of how lift truck forks can show damage:
Surface cracks—These can be determined by visual inspection or subjected to a “nondestructive” crack detection process. The forks should never be returned to service if surface cracks are detected.
Bent Blade or Shank—If deviation from straightness exceeds 0.5 percent of the length of the blade or height of the shank, the fork should never be returned to service.
Fork Angle—Any fork with a deviation of greater than 3 degrees from the original specification should never be returned to service.
Difference in Fork Height of Fork Tips—If the difference in tip heights exceeds 3 percent of the length of the blade, the set of forks should never be returned to service.
Wear of Fork Blade and Shank—If the thickness is reduced to 90 percent of the original thickness, the fork should never be returned to service.
Wear of Fork Hooks—If there is substantial wear to an extent that the clearance between the fork and the fork carrier becomes excessive the fork should never be returned to service.
Also, worn forks can reduce the capacity of the lift truck. The Industrial Truck Association recommends that forks be withdrawn from service when the fork blade’s thickness has been reduced by 10 percent; however,few users understand that a 10 percent reduction in blade thickness results in capacity reduction of 20 percent. This translates to a 20 percent reduction in the safety factor of the pair of forks.
You have a number of options when choosing a service provider for your material handling equipment. Maintenance and items such as fork inspections should be performed by the manufacturer or an expert of equal competence. Your local Hyster dealer has such an expert who can perform these free inspections on a regular basis. At the same time, the dealer can make recommendations to keep your forklifts up and running with no loss of time and money, thereby providing a safer work environment for your employees. Choosing a scheduled maintenance service provider by price alone can leave you paying more in the long run through additional unscheduled downtime and more costly, major repairs. Look for a plan that ensures each and every truck on your agreement receives a thorough inspection, from fork to counterweight, to help ensure little problems do not turn into big, expensive ones.
Pat DeSutter is the director of fleet management at NACCO Materials Handling Group, Portland, Ore. For more information, visit www.nmhg.com.